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Advanced tech breeding for endangered species
Published on: Thursday, December 28, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Wildlife Department, with the support from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, has initiated a programme on the application of advanced reproductive technology in the conservation of endangered wildlife species in Sabah.

Sabah Wildlife Department Director Augustine Tuuga (pic) said the national significance initiative under the 11th Malaysia Plan began in 2010.

"We have appointed an non-government organisation, Borneo Rhino Alliance (Bora), to assist us, and they now have two wildlife veterinarians, a senior laboratory technician and two research students on their payroll, as well as their rhino keepers," he said in a statement Wednesday.

Tuuga said this in response to an article published recently in a news portal quoting two wildlife experts based in Sabah who expressed their fears on the status of endangered wildlife species, including Sumatran rhino, banteng, elephant, sun bear, orang-utan and pangolin, in the State.

He said amongst their partners in the programme were Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture in Sandakan, where an advanced reproductive technology laboratory is being developed, along with Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Germany), Agro-biotechnology Institute Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuantan.

Other specialist institutions who were helping them included Morula IVF (Indonesia), Avantea (Italy) and the Zoological Park Association of Thailand.

On the application of the advanced reproduction technology on the endangered species such as rhinos, Tuuga said the genomes of all four of the last Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia were kept in living cell cultures both overseas and locally.

He said Puntung, for example, the female rhino who was euthanised in June 2017, is still "alive" in cell culture in Malaysia.

"We are building up Malaysian expertise in other essential skills such as conducting safe general anaesthesia for large mammals, collection of semen and eggs, and in-vitro fertilisation. Semen of sun bears and macaques was collected and stored in liquid nitrogen in 2017.

"The same will be done for clouded leopard and proboscis monkey in 2018," he explained.

Tuuga also said that Bornean banteng, or tembadau, as the most endangered wildlife species in Sabah after the rhino, was definitely a species suitable for captive breeding and application of advanced reproductive technology.

He said they would be interested to partner with one of the big oil palm plantation companies for that work.

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